For the underprivileged children of the Sabar tribe, Arup Mukherjee is no less than a messiah who aims to secure their future by running a residential school with his own savings. A police constable by profession, he had a vision of uplifting the condition of children belonging to a marginalized tribe which has often been linked with criminal offences. Surely, he has been successful in building a haven for these ostracized kids who are getting an education and a home to nurture their dreams.
As a child, Mukherjee was acquainted with the pitiful condition of Sabar tribe from his grandfather. He was inquisitive to learn more so as to what led them to commit criminal activities. The Sabar people have been classified as one of the ‘criminal tribes’ under the Criminal Tribes Act 1871 during the British period. Although it was done way back in time, they still continue to live in a perpetual state of poverty and are driven to commit thefts and dacoity. Most of them could be found living in the central Bengal’s area of Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore district which has also been a region of Maoist-activity. Till date, they live in a perpetual state of societal prejudice.
“After learning about the plight of Sabars, I wanted to do something to alleviate their condition. I felt that providing education to the children of this community would surely help them to transform their lives. Soon after I started my job in 1999 with the Kolkata police, I saved money every month from my own salary. Over time, as I discussed my idea with others in my village, one of them agreed to lend a small plot of land for this school.” shares Arup Mukherjee while talking to The Logical Indian.
The Puncha Nabadisha Model School is situated in a remote part of Purulia district which aims at providing free education to the children of Sabar tribe. Started in 2011 with just 20 students enrolled, Arup initially used his savings to build the school which ran in two-classrooms. Later, as he was recognized for his work, he got funding from a US-based charitable institution and other people. This helped him to ameliorate the facilities which he provides at the school.
“When I was felicitated on a Bengali talk show hosted by former Indian cricketer Sourav Ganguly, I received money from the channel and its sponsors which I utilized in building the school. Following this, many people approached me for funding. Many people learn about us through social media platforms and reach out for individual contributions.” narrates Arup to The Logical Indian. Recently in August, he received a special honour at The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence 2018 for his remarkable efforts.
Even after all the funding and his accrued income, he feels that he has not been able to fulfil the needs of these children. Working selflessly for them, he contributes a major part of his salary on the school. Most children aged between 3 to 14 years are schooled here till class- 4th. After this, they ensure that the students join the local-government run higher secondary school in that area for further studies. At present, the school has 112 students and it runs under nine classrooms and rooms with basic amenities. They provide residence, food, uniform and education-related material to all those studying here. Apart from him, four teachers are employed who share the responsibilities of the school and they are happy to teach children from the Sabar community.
His attempt to bring them back to classes from living a life of ostracism deserves utter respect. It would be shocking to be reminded with the fact that many of them are first-generation school goers. For generations, they have been abandoned and ignored by society. Although with Arup’s efforts, there’s surely hope at the end of the tunnel.
“It took me nearly five years to win the confidence of people in the tribe who often call me as ‘Sabar Pita’. Many people with criminal background have now turned down their activities as they see their children getting education. It gives me immense satisfaction to work for my community at the grass-root level.” told Arup to The Logical Indian.
Posted at the South Traffic Police Guard, Kolkata, he could be seen managing the busy traffic of the city on normal days. But as soon as he finishes his daily duties, he rushes to visit these children whom he considers his extended family. His dream of educating these tribal children has also been supported by his own family members. He has twins studying in senior secondary section and they are also proud of the work which he has been doing.
For him, no reward is greater than the happiness he brings to the children studying in his school who address him as ‘dada’ or ‘baba’. The Logical Indian salutes the efforts of such unsung heroes who are relentlessly working for the betterment of society. His unflinching resolution in bringing education to the abandoned tribal children would be a legacy for the upcoming generations.